At Noon during the height of the day, the monks break from their work to pray, serve each other and eat together. This time of prayer and reading is called Sext which comes from Latin, refering to the sixth hour of the day after dawn. High noon, the half way marker of our day, this is the time when the sun stands its highest and we experience the intensity of its heat. Except when we remember Our Lord, who was nailed to the cross, and at the sixth hour darkness covered the land. During the hight of the day it was dark, when Hell unleashes its might, and Christ did battle over our fallen nature. For three hours it remained dark until Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” After this He gave up His spirit, Matthew 27:46. This is the hour of intensity, when our Savior was scorned and suffered for our sin. Despised by the leaders of His day and rejected by the religious, He remained faithful to God’s call.
Noon not only signaled the halfway mark of day but also our deliverance, that pivotal point in the pendulums swing, that moment between sin and salvation, between death and deliverance, between the past and the future, between the old and the new, between what was and what would be. This was the the hour of faithful fervor and forgiveness, the conclusion of commitment and compassion. When the deity faced death and truth triumphed over tyranny, in the struggle of sin when war was waged for our souls. So it is for us also, that moment of intensity when we face the fight of the noonday devil, that hour of temptation, the moment we are tempted to turn and trust in ourselves. The temptation to laziness and lax judgement, that moment when we are susceptible to the sly, devious ways of the devil. Where we are tempted to slack off and slip into spiritual slumber, lulled to sleep as we rest on our laurels, lax in our love for The Lord. Under the numbing noon day sun with its heavy heat, its easy to to want to hide, to take a break from the blaze. We are tempted to retire and rest yet the day has not yet run its course, this is the moment of resolve when we must press on in prayer. As we face the tidal wave of wickedness, with its promise of persecution, or the trial of temptation we will not drown and die in the drought of its difficulty, if we do not retire from our relationship with the Redeemer. This is the decisive part of the day, that moment when we are most easily distracted and diverted by the difficulties and the desires of the flesh. Those things that draw us away from our one true vocation of proclaiming the saving power and peace of our King. It is here in the service of Sext that I ask myself whether proclaiming His plan of peace is still my present purpose, or whether I have been pulled away by some falsely pressing matter? It is so easy to be distracted, to cave to my own cares, to be consumed by the unquenchable desire to satisfy self. In our seductive society, with its flash and flurry, its easy to be seduced into spiritual slumber. To trade the truth for the temporary trinkets that twist and turn my attention away from the Almighty. Today just as we have a culture of ADD (attention deficit disorder) we seem to have slipped into a church culture of SADD (Spiritual attention deficit disorder). It is a disorientating disorder that is driving us from the divine to the dumb. Seducing us into spiritual slothfulness as we become blinded by the secular. The secular of a selfish, sun scorched society, living only to fatten the flesh through the pursuit of pleasure. Like an epidemic, a disease that descends and darkens the land, blistering it with its bitter drought of decay. Again in the stillness of this service I must ask my heart some hard health questions: “am I pursuing the Father or the flesh?” As we move into the middle of the day it becomes paramount that we pursue His plan, that we stay awake at the wheel, so as not to drift and veer from Christ’s commanded course. How many in the middle of their lives, when the sun was at its highest, have veered of His path only to collide with the consequence of their choices. Seduced into spiritual suicide by a society bent on self. Yet as the sun stands high in the noon day sky, scorching the land with its relentless rays, like an oppressive oven, we must not shrink back and shy away from serving our Savior. Yes here in the heat of the sun we are all susceptible to the sin of selfishness, that self love of making it more about me than the Master. Yet we do not have to succumb to the seduction of self or the allure of attention. During times of difficulty we are easily drained and drawn away, distracted by doubt. In the face of these facts we are apt to apathy, the sin of the slow fade, the temptation that comes when we are worn by the long haul through the hot day. So satisfied or sad over our past, that we do not push on in the present, content just to set the cruise control and forget the crusade of Christ. Here I must pause for another health check, “Am I in cruise control or Christ’s control?” Have I settled for spinning my wheels in the soft seductive muck of the culture with its comfort and convenience or am I committed to the cause of Christ?” Its not just apathy, anxiety can also command our attention, marching us relentlessly into ruin, replacing our joy as it imprisons us in its jail. Anxiety that demands our attention and drains our day, leaving us weary and worn with worry. All of us are prone to falter and even fall, tempted to forgo time with the Father and instead try to fake it. Yet the antidote to apathy and anxiety is to recommit to our relationship with the Father, to be revived as we reconnect with His redemptive love. This is the call of Sext, to come in from the sun and sit with the Savior. To allow His light to shine on our situation and illuminate the lies we live with. The ones we carry that control and burden us like pack mules treading the dusty trail of deceit. Lies that leave us open to poor judgment, leading to joyless living and judgmental attitudes. Lies that no longer live in the shadows, but build the very fabric of our belief, directing and destroying our lives. Lies that we would not be forced to follow if they were exposed to the light of His love, a love that illuminates our turmoil with truth. Sext is a time of trading the harsh glaring light of the day with its heat, for the illuminating healing light of God. A pause in the press of life, to prepare us for the continued pursuit of His plan. If only we would let His holy interruptions be what distract and demand our hearts full attention. But oh how we detest these “divine distractions” when the Savior takes center stage, showing up to call the shots in our lives. A burning bush, or a baby in the womb, a blinding light, or burning coal. Moses, Mary, Saul, and Isaiah all experienced these divine distractions, distractions that dictated the very course of their lives. Distractions that demand a decision, will we obey His word or be swept along by the world? Distractions that come with a choice and a cost, for Mary the cost to carry Christ was a decision of disgrace, the ruin of reputation. Today we are apt to focus on the difficulties of this decision, to become preoccupied with the problems instead of the privilege of persecution, and the sweetness of suffering for the Savior. I love what Isaiah says in Isaiah 6:1: “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.” So I must ask my heart another hard question “When was the last time you stopped long enough to see The Lord?” Somehow in the hustle and bustle of life its easy to miss the majesty, to tune out the throne in the temple and trip over the train of His robe. So this is my noon day question, “am I distracted by the day or the divine?” Uzziah died, earthly kings come and go, but God is eternal. Isaiah didn’t miss the real Master, he saw the Savior and was sanctified, cleansed by Christ’s coals. When His redeemer requested someone to go, Isaiah responded “here am I send me” The calling comes after spending time with the Savior, where our sin is exposed and extinguished by His fire. May be today your at that mid point in your life, your middle of the day, and your tempted to turn and trust in self, to coast on the wings of comfort instead of the call of Christ. May be you no longer anticipate the activity of the Almighty in your life, then let me remind you that it was at the at the sixth hour, at the hottest part of the day that Abraham saw the three angels, Genesis 18. The ones who came bearing news of a baby, a holy interruption in the heat of the day, when the only thing stirring was the Savior. You may look at you life and laugh, Sarah did, she didn’t believe. Yet at noon, at the hour when the sun is at its fullest, we are reminded that it is the image of Divine splendor, the plenitude of God, the time of His grace. Today don’t retire and rust away, return instead to the rest of God.